Friday, February 12, 2016

Wisconsin Debate

I watched the first twenty minutes of the PBS debate between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton last night and came away with one thought before turning in: Bernie Sanders is a very nice guy, a strong advocate for the poor and marginalized, but he’s not going to win the election if every answer to every question is about income inequality.  I get it that it is a big deal and it is an important issue, but it’s not the only thing we have to deal with.  On that score, he’s beginning to skate into Marco Rubio territory; but at least he comes up with a different version of the same answer.

Ms. Clinton looked calm and in control last night, and from the clips I’ve seen, she answered Mr. Sanders’ challenges with aplomb.  And then she had a good closer:

We agree we’ve got to get unaccountable money out of politics. We agree that Wall Street should never be allowed to wreck main street again. But here’s the point I want to make tonight. I am not a single-issue candidate and I do not believe we live in a single-issue country. I think that a lot of what we have to overcome to break down the barriers that are holding people back, whether it’s poison in the water of the children of Flint or whether it’s the poor miners who are being left out and left behind in coal country, or whether it is any other American today who feels somehow put down and depressed by racism, by sexism, by discrimination against the lgbt community against the kind of efforts that need to be made to root out all of these barriers, that’s what I want to take on.

This isn’t the last debate, but by at least one account it went well for Hillary Clinton and showed that losing by nearly 20 points in New Hampshire didn’t rattle her.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Rubio Tantrum Update

After a brief moment of clarity on Tuesday night where Sen. Marco Rubio blamed himself for his poor performance in the New Hampshire primary and said it would never happen again — and please send money — he reverted to the usual fallback position of blaming the media for having the temerity of reporting on his I, Robot moments.

“What happened is obviously Saturday night the debate went the way it went, and then just the media coverage over the last 72 hours was very negative about it and so forth,” Rubio said Wednesday on “Fox & Friends.” “So the last thing voters heard going into the booth yesterday was, you know, something bad happened Saturday night. And so it made it very difficult for us to get any other message across.”

And now he’s doubling down on his oft-repeated claim that Barack Obama is a traitor and that he has more foreign policy experience than anyone ever.

“One of the things I’m criticized for is saying the truth, and I’ll continue to say this: Barack Obama is undermining this country. He is hurting this country. He is doing serious damage to this country in a way that I believe is part of a plan to weaken America on the global stage. This is the truth,” Rubio said on Fox.

He also defended himself from criticism that he’s inexperienced.

“This line that somehow I have no experience is absurd. It’s true I haven’t lived as long as some of the people running for president, but I have more foreign policy experience than any of them,” Rubio said.

That last part is laughable on its face; Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State for four years and no matter what you think of her tenure in the job, that automatically gives her more experience than he has.  With his attendance record in the Senate, I’d say that Téa Leoni has more foreign policy experience than Marco Rubio, and serving on a committee for five years doesn’t count if you don’t show up for work.

Mr. Rubio has a tendency to panic when confronted by a challenge.  That’s not something you want in a president.  If karma does its thing, his next job will be hustling Hondas on Biscayne Boulevard.

Short Takes

Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina quit the GOP race.

U.S. will sue Ferguson for rejecting policing agreement.

Fed chief Janet Yellen is being cautious about raising interest rates.

Senate votes to sanction North Korea.

NTSB calls for tougher lithium battery regulations due to fire risk.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Beta Version

Marco Rubio got the BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) in New Hampshire last night, but not to worry.

“I’m disappointed with tonight. But I want you to understand something. I want you to understand something. Our disappointment tonight is not on you — it’s on me,” Rubio said. “I did not do well on Saturday night. So listen to this: that will never happen again.”

I get that same message every time they update Windows.

Let’s Get Serious

We knew Bernie Sanders would win the New Hampshire primary; he’s been leading there since the beginning of polling, and if you’re worried about Hillary Clinton getting drubbed, she still has the rest of the primary field to run, including Super Tuesday in March.

As for the Republicans, Ohio Gov. John Kasich pulled out a second, ahead of Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, and Marco Rubio, in that order with one percentage point between Cruz and Rubio making up the difference.  The rest of the field is pretty much in the dust.

But it was Donald Trump who will tell you he won the night, and he did.  And I agree with Ezra Klein: that should scare the crap out of America.

Trump is the most dangerous major candidate for president in memory. He pairs terrible ideas with an alarming temperament; he’s a racist, a sexist, and a demagogue, but he’s also a narcissist, a bully, and a dilettante. He lies so constantly and so fluently that it’s hard to know if he even realizes he’s lying. He delights in schoolyard taunts and luxuriates in backlash.

Trump is in serious contention to win the Republican presidential nomination. His triumph in a general election is unlikely but it is far from impossible. He’s not a joke and he’s not a clown. He’s a man who could soon be making decisions of war and peace, who would decide which regulations are enforced and which are lifted, who would be responsible for nominating Supreme Court Justices and representing America in the community of nations. This is not political entertainment. This is politics.

Trump’s path to power has been unnerving. His business is licensing out his own name as a symbol of opulence. He has endured bankruptcies and scandal by bragging his way out of them. He rose to prominence in the Republican Party as a leader of the birther movement. He climbed to the top of the polls in this election by calling Mexicans rapists and killers. He defended a poor debate performance by accusing Megyn Kelly of being on her period. He responded to rival Ted Cruz’s surge by calling for a travel ban on Muslims. When two of his supporters attacked a homeless man and said they did it because “Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported,” he brushed off complaints that he’s inspiring violence by saying his supporters are “very passionate.”

Behind Trump’s success is an unerring instinct for harnessing anger, resentment, and fear. His view of the economy is entirely zero-sum — for Americans to win, others must lose. “We’re going to make America great again,” he said in his New Hampshire victory speech, “but we’re going to do it the old fashioned way. We’re going to beat China, Japan, beat Mexico at trade. We’re going to beat all of these countries that are taking so much of our money away from us on a daily basis. It’s not going to happen anymore.”

Trump answers America’s rage with more rage. As the journalist Molly Ball observed, “All the other candidates say ‘Americans are angry, and I understand.’ Trump says, ‘I’M angry.'” Trump doesn’t offer solutions so much as he offers villains. His message isn’t so much that he’ll help you as he’ll hurt them.


Trump lives by the reality-television trope that he’s not here to make friends. But the reason reality-television villains always say they’re not there to make friends is because it sets them apart, makes them unpredictable and fun to watch. “I’m not here to make friends” is another way of saying “I’m not bound by the social conventions of normal people.” The rest of us are here to make friends, and it makes us boring, gentle, kind.

This, more than his ideology, is why Trump genuinely scares me. There are places where I think Trump’s instincts are an improvement on the Republican field. He seems more dovish than neoconservatives like Marco Rubio, and less dismissive of the social safety net than libertarians like Rand Paul. But those candidates are checked by institutions and incentives that hold no sway over Trump; his temperament is so immature, his narcissism so clear, his political base so unique, his reactions so strange, that I honestly have no idea what he would do — or what he wouldn’t do.

When MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough asked Trump about his affection for Vladimir Putin, who “kills journalists, political opponents and invades countries,” Trump replied, “He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country.” Later, he clarified that he doesn’t actually condone killing journalists, but, he warned the crowd, “I do hate them.”

It’s a lie that if you put a frog into a pot of water and slowly turn up the heat the frog will simply boil, but it’s a fact that if you put the American political system in a room with Trump for long enough we slowly lose track of how noxious he is, or we at least run out of ways to keep repeating it.

But tonight is a night to repeat it. There is something scary in Donald Trump. We should fear his rise.

We’ve heard this madness before, and at the risk of going full-on Godwin, it’s been from grainy black and white newsreels with banners flying and goosesteps.  The joke is long over.

Short Takes

Sanders and Trump win their respective New Hampshire primaries.

Supreme Court places hold on EPA carbon rules while trial proceeds.

Mercedes-Benz recalling over 700,000 cars over faulty airbags.

GOP pronounces President Obama’s last budget D.O.A.

Director of Intelligence chief James Clapper says the threats are diverse.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Call Tech Support

Via First Draft at the New York Times:

Maybe it was just the end of a long, tiring day of campaigning. Or maybe Senator Marco Rubio’s opponents have gotten into his head.

But on Monday, Mr. Rubio, the Florida Republican, who has been under relentless criticism for uttering his talking points over and over in Saturday’s presidential debate, had another repetitious lapse.

Speaking to a crowd in Nashua, he was lamenting the decline in American family values.

Then he lamented the decline in American values again.

This is what he said verbatim, as his wife and four children looked on:

“We are taking our message to families that are struggling to raise their children in the 21st century because, as you saw, Jeanette and I are raising our four children in the 21st century, and we know how hard it’s become to instill our values in our kids instead of the values they try to ram down our throats.

“In the 21st century, it’s becoming harder than ever to instill in your children the values they teach in our homes and in our church instead of the values that they try to ram down our throats in the movies, in music, in popular culture.”

Mr. Rubio appeared to notice his own echo: As he repeated the word “throats,” he caught himself, but proceeded to the end of his sentence nonetheless.

Time for him to spend some time in the regeneration chamber.


No, You Do Not Respect My View

Via the New York Times, Marco Rubio tried to sell his candidacy to the wrong couple.

MANCHESTER, N.H. – A middle-age gay man confronted Senator Marco Rubio here on Monday over his opposition to same-sex marriage, pointedly asking, “Why do you want to put me back in the closet?”

“I don’t,” Mr. Rubio replied. “You can live any way you want.”

The tense exchange inside the Puritan Backroom diner ended with Mr. Rubio walking away and the displeased voter calling him a “typical politician.”

Mr. Rubio, who is seeking to win over conservatives, is seldom asked about gay rights at his campaign stops. But courting voters in a crowded New Hampshire diner on the eve of the primary is an unpredictable business.

The voter, who identified himself as Timothy Kierstead, was seated at a table with his mother and his husband when Mr. Rubio walked up behind him, according to pool reports of the encounter. During a brief conversation, Mr. Kierstead, 50, told Mr. Rubio that he was married but complained that the senator’s position amounted to him declaring that “we don’t matter.”

Mr. Rubio, who was standing with his youngest son, Dominick, 8, by his side, gently disagreed. “No, I just believe marriage is between one man and one woman.”

“Well,” replied Mr. Kierstead, “that’s your belief.”

Mr. Rubio continued: “I think that’s what the law should be. And if you don’t agree you should have the law changed by a legislature.”

Mr. Kierstead said the law had already been changed, referring either to a Supreme Court ruling that has legalized same-sex marriage across the country or to state legislation in New Hampshire that did the same.

Mr. Rubio decided to conclude their conversation. “I respect your view,” he said, patting Mr. Kierstead on the shoulder and starting to walk away.

Mr. Kierstead was unsatisfied. “Typical politician,” he said loudly. “Walk away.”

At the risk of repeating myself, Marco Rubio is a sanctimonious asshole and a sniveling bigot.

Monday, February 8, 2016

No Escape

Speaking of repetition (see below), this time of a different sort, Jeb Bush is still trying to explain why his brother was right to invade Iraq.  Via Jon McCormack at Twitter:

Even with mistakes made, he showed fortitude and determination and he did the right thing. And I will do the same…

We get that.  He doesn’t.  That’s why he’s pulling 3%.

Laughing At You, Not With You

Marco Rubio’s campaign for the White House is doing the only thing it can after Saturday night’s debate: make the best of a bad situation.  The candidate went on TV the next morning and said he was going to keep saying what he was saying over and over because it’s true, and if people make fun of him, it’s true.

The problem, of course, is that what he’s saying has been overridden by how he’s saying it, and the mockery, especially in this age of instant messages and Twitter, is what people will remember, along with the fact that the candidate set himself up for the attack again and again.

It also shows that Mr. Rubio is, at least in public, incapable of thinking fast on his feet.  He got trapped in the corner, but instead of coming up with an alternative, he kept repeating the same thing over and over.  Even a scripted alternative would have at at least saved him perhaps some embarrassment, but that didn’t happen, so we got the Lt. Data-like feedback loop.  No one wants that in a president.  Now he’s becoming a laughingstock and a punchline.

Mr. Rubio could recover from this.  It would require him to recognize the mistake, make a self-deprecating joke or two — “At the risk of repeating myself” — and take the lumps in good humor.  Digging in deeper only confirms that he’s not getting the message that a lot of people think he’s over-scripted, over-polished, and woefully over-rated.

By the way, his point that Barack Obama knew exactly what he was doing when he turned the economy around from the Bush disaster and recession, got unemployment down below 5%, got 15 million people health care, took out Osama bin Laden, and made peace with an enemy that could have nuked Tel Aviv may be campaign fodder for the base, but to the rest of us, it doesn’t exactly sound like a bad thing.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Sunday Reading

Poisoning PeopleThe New York Times on the Republicans’ refusal to help Flint.

A House oversight committee held a hearing on Wednesday whose purpose was purportedly to identify those responsible for the Flint crisis and determine what could be done to alleviate it. But the committee failed to summon Rick Snyder, the Republican governor of Michigan, whose environmental officials and emergency managers were the ones who made monumental blunders that led the city to draw water from the polluted Flint River without treating it properly. Instead, Republicans heaped blame on the Environmental Protection Agency, which made mistakes but was a bit player in this drama.

Then on Thursday, in the Senate, negotiations between Republicans and Democrats on a financial aid package for Flint, to be attached to a bipartisan energy bill awaiting passage, broke down, and Democrats refused to approve the bill without the aid package, pushing any hope of assistance into next week.

The Democrats have already yielded a lot of ground, cutting their original $600 million aid package to less than half of that, only to meet Republican objections that the costs were not fully offset by other cuts in federal spending and that no money should be provided until Michigan had a more thorough plan on how the money would be spent.

There is little doubt that some, perhaps all, of Flint’s corroded pipes will need to be replaced, at a cost that the governor estimates at $767 million and others say could be above $1 billion. We believe that the Army Corps of Engineers ought to do the job and bill the state for its services. It is outrageous that Flint residents, even though the city has switched back to cleaner water from Lake Huron, still have to rely on bottled water and filters because the lead continues to leach from the pipes.

There is no doubt that thousands of Flint residents will need monitoring, medical supervision and educational support for many years to come. Some 8,000 or more children under the age of 6, whose developing brains can suffer irreversible damage from exposure to lead, drank the poisoned water, and some are already showing symptoms. They need immediate access to supportive preschool programs; monitoring by school nurses and teachers trained to spot and care for children with developmental difficulties (Michigan ranks last in the ratio of school nurses to students); and nutritious meals high in calcium, vitamin C and iron, which mitigate the effects of lead.

Experts are uncertain about the degree of permanent brain damage caused by the amount of lead ingested by Flint youngsters. That may take years to assess fully, but these youngsters and their parents deserve every bit of support they can get for the harm they have suffered and will continue to suffer from the government’s mistakes.

And children are not the only victims. Lead poisoning can have severe consequences for people of all ages. It will be crucial for everyone — every baby, adolescent and adult — to be monitored by a primary care doctor who can keep close watch on his or her medical needs. Providing that service will require immediate money from the state and federal governments — and a long-term commitment from the state to the victims for decades to come.

The Ten-Word Answer — Jamelle Bouie on Marco Rubio’s disastrous debate performance last night.

Some politicians, unlucky ones, make mistakes that define their entire careers. For Dan Quayle in the 1988 presidential election, it was a brief comparison with John F. Kennedy. For Howard Dean in the 2004 Democratic primary, it was “the scream.” For Rick Perry in the 2012 Republican primary, it was “oops.” These weren’t the worst mistakes ever made, but they were emblematic of each candidate’s weakness—flubs that reinforced critiques from rivals and the media. Dean screamed just as pundits questioned his temperament for the White House, while Perry stuttered in the face of uncertainty about his intelligence.

Sen. Marco Rubio is a gifted politician and talented communicator. But he’s faced a repeated attack in his six years on the national stage—that his smooth charisma conceals a man of little substance. That, on a fundamental level, he’s not ready for the Oval Office. And on Saturday night, Rubio gave substance to the charge in a remarkable exchange with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at the eighth Republican presidential debate.

It began with a question. The moderators asked Rubio to list accomplishments in his record that have prepared him for the presidency. Rubio cited work on foreign policy and issues such as veterans affairs before moving to well-worn rhetoric meant to counter these experience questions by tweaking a popular conservative notion about Barack Obama. “Let’s dispel once and for all with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing,” he said. “He knows exactly what he’s doing. Barack Obama is undertaking a systematic effort to change this country, to make America more like the rest of the world.” And in this implicit analogy, Rubio is the Republican Barack Obama who will make a “systematic effort” to make America unique again. “When I’m president of the United States,” he continued, “we are going to re-embrace all the things that made America the greatest nation in the world, and we are going to leave our children with what they deserve: the single greatest nation in the history of the world.”

It’s a good line, designed for applause. But this time, Rubio had pushback, in the form of Christie.

Behind in national polls and struggling for air in a crowded field, Christie has focused on his experience—as an executive—to make the case to New Hampshire voters and Republicans nationwide. And against Rubio’s disdain for experience, he scoffed. “You have not been involved in a consequential decision where you had to be held accountable,” Christie said. “You just simply haven’t. And the fact is—when you talk about the Hezbollah sanctions act that you list as one of your accomplishments, you weren’t even there to vote for it. That’s not leadership. That’s truancy.” He finished with a swipe. “I like Marco Rubio, and he’s a smart person and a good guy, but he simply does not have the experience to be president of the United States.”

In this debate, the candidates could respond to one another, and Rubio countered with a swipe at Christie’s record on fiscal management, accusing the governor of worsening New Jersey’s debt problem. And then he did something strange. He slipped back into his line about Obama.

“But I would add this,” Rubio said. “Let’s dispel with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing. He is trying to change this country. He wants America to become more like the rest of the world,” ending in the same place he had finished just a few minutes earlier.

Immediately, Christie pounced, locking eyes with the camera as he slammed Rubio for the strange repetition.

“You see, everybody, I want the people at home to think about this—this is what Washington, D.C., does,” said Christie. “The drive-by shot at the beginning with incorrect and incomplete information, and then the memorized 25-second speech that is exactly what his advisers gave him.” He continued, moving from a body slam to a pile drive. “See, Marco, the thing is this: When you’re president of the United States, when you are a governor of a state, the memorized 30-second speech where you talk about how great America is doesn’t solve one problem for one person. They expect you to plow the snow. They expect you to get the schools open. And when the worst natural disaster in your state’s history hits you, they expect you to rebuild their state, which is what I’ve done. None of that stuff happens on the floor of the United State Senate.”

Rubio tried to respond. He tried to jab Christie for his absence from New Jersey from the storm. But his hits wouldn’t land. He was too flustered.

At this point, Rubio could have ended the exchange with silence. Instead, he went back to his talking points. He repeated himself about Obama. “Here’s the bottom line,” he said, like a program trapped in an infinite loop. “This notion that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing is just not …”

Christie cut him off. “There it is! There it is. The memorized 25-second speech. There it is, everybody.” The fight was over. Rubio was shook. Later in the night, Rubio would fall into that rhetoric again, unable to break from his stump speech.


Rubio needed a win on Saturday. He needed to show Republicans that Iowa wasn’t a fluke, that he could consolidate support and charge ahead of Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz. Instead, at best, he gave a mixed performance, with good answers overshadowed by one of the most uncomfortable moments of the entire Republican debate season.

It’s far too much to say that it will cost him the nomination. But it could push him down the ladder in New Hampshire and create renewed chaos in the nomination fight, as candidates such as Jeb Bush, Christie, and Gov. John Kasich rise, and Trump—largely unscathed—holds his spot on top.

Lesson for Mr. Rubio from Jed Bartlet:


Banking Scandal for Bernie — Andy Borowitz in The New Yorker.

MANCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE (The Borowitz Report)—Scandal rocked Bernie Sanders’s Presidential campaign on Friday as the candidate was forced to admit that he received free checking from several big banks.

In a press conference in Manchester, New Hampshire, a chastened Sanders acknowledged that, over the past two decades, he received free checking from Bank of America, Citibank, and JPMorgan Chase in exchange for maintaining a five-hundred-dollar minimum balance.

“I should have acknowledged my relationship with these banks earlier,” a subdued Sanders told reporters. “For that, I am sorry.”

The Clinton campaign immediately seized on the revelation, with one senior Clinton aide alleging that Sanders’s cozy relationship with the banks “effectively strips him of the label ‘progressive.’ ”

“Quite frankly, I don’t know of too many progressives who make five-hundred-dollar payoffs to the big banks,” the aide said. “This doesn’t pass the smell test.”

The news of Sanders’s ties to the banking industry comes just days after damaging reports that he leveraged his relationship with the American Automobile Association to obtain a discount on renting a Nissan Sentra.

Doonesbury — Fantasy.

Friday, February 5, 2016

New Hampshire Debate

I watched almost the whole debate last night between Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  (It was supposed to be 90 minutes, but when it went past that mark, I figured I’d catch the rest on re-run.)  For what it’s worth, I think Ms. Clinton hit it out of the park on just about every question except for the one about releasing the transcripts of her speeches to Wall Street; “I’ll look into it” was a clunker.  I realize she may be bound by confidentiality agreements, but the answer could have been, “Sure, as far as I’m concerned, they can run them in the Manchester Union-Leader.”  But other than that, she trotted around the bases.

That’s not to say Mr. Sanders stood there, as the immortal Ernie Harwell would say, like a house at the side of the road.  He answered all the questions about his campaign for economic equality and damning Wall Street at the ready, and he used them again and again.  Where he seemed to get into the weeds was on foreign policy, especially Afghanistan, and on that Ms. Clinton has him beat.

I got a little tired of hearing about who was the most progressive, but it was refreshing to have Democrats not shy away from the label.  It’s about time they owned it, even if no one went as far as to call themselves “liberal.”  The GOP still has let the stink remain on that word, but that’s a quibble.  And if people think Hillary Clinton talks too loud, she was more than matched by Mr. Sanders, who doesn’t seem to know to use his indoor voice ever.  Some people find that endearing.

The best part was that this was a real debate.  Thank you, moderators Rachel Maddow and Chuck Todd, for not big-footing the exchanges between the candidates or asking silly questions about their favorite maple syrup.  We got real substance last night, not press releases.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Getting The Clap

Poor Jeb!

Bush was met with complete silence after giving what the Times described as a “fiery” speech at the Hanover Inn, where he vowed to prioritize national security as President.

“I won’t be out here blowharding, talking a big game without backing it up,” he said, as quoted by the Times.

“Please clap,” he pleaded as the audience remained quiet.

According to the Times, the crowd laughed before finally breaking out into applause.

The late Fred Thompson had the same problem: firing up a crowd.  But one of the things that any politician on the stump — or stand-up comic — should know is how to read the audience and gauge your delivery to them.  It’s known by various terms, but I call it “getting the room.”

Jeb Bush is probably one of the smarter candidates on the Republican side, and he certainly does a better job with the language and syntax than previous examples from his own family or the ranks of candidates, so it must be something else that is keeping him in single digits.

First, the “room” isn’t just the people sitting in the ballroom at the Hanover Inn.  It’s the entire collection of rooms, of the party he’s trying to win over, and they’re not buying his soft-spoken and comparatively tame rhetoric.  Watch the clip of his remarks; describing it as “fiery” compared to others in the race is like saying ketchup should come with a warning label for hotness.  So in a roomful of shouters and tantrum-throwers, he’s the silent one.  That’s not saying that’s a bad thing; Dog knows we need less noise.  But that’s not what the Republican base wants.  They want a demagogue douchebag who will say anything, including baldly racist and hateful things to fire up the anger, and that’s just not Jeb’s style.

The second thing is that it’s painfully clear that Jeb Bush does not want to go through this to be president.  If he could just fill out an application, sit down with the admissions committee, show his legacy, and get his dorm assignment, he’d be much more suited to the task.  But he clearly can’t muster the energy to go out and fight for it; it’s as if it’s beneath him.  He wants it handed to him.  Not for nothing, he’s also been witness in the last twenty-five years to what his father and his brother went through, and I’d be really surprised if there wasn’t a part of him that’s saying, “Who needs it?”  But somewhere, somehow, someone put it in his head that he should run, and rather than disappoint either his family or the dwindling few who make up what’s left of the Republican Establishment, he’s doing his duty; the reluctant prince who would much rather be doing anything else.

No wonder he has to ask for the applause; he doesn’t even sound like he’d give it to himself.

(The title should really boost my Google hits.)

Of Brick Walls and Glass Ceilings

Melissa McEwan of Shakesville wasn’t always a Hillary Clinton supporter, but now she makes her case.

Not a perfect person. Not even a perfect candidate. I am not distressed by people who have legitimate criticisms of Hillary Clinton and some of the policies she has advocated; I share those criticisms.

What is distressing to me is that I see little evidence of that person in the public narratives about Hillary Clinton. Not everyone has the time nor the desire to deep-dive into documents the way that I have. If I hadn’t had a professional reason to do so, I may not have done it myself.

I may have—and did, before I was obliged otherwise—relied on what I learned about Hillary Clinton from the media.

Which, as it turns out, is deeply corrupted by pervasive misogyny.

The subtle misogyny of double-standards that mean she can’t win (even when she does), and the overt misogyny of turning her into a monster, a gross caricature of a ruthlessly ambitious villain who will stop at nothing in her voracious quest for ever more power.

This is a view held, and promulgated, by people who have a vested interest in stopping Hillary Clinton, or anyone who espouses even the most rudimentary progressive agenda. People who have long been watchers of and/or participants in the political process, who are old enough and sophisticated enough to know better.

It is also a view held by a startlingly large number of younger people, whose misperceptions are somewhat understandable, given that the ubiquitous campaign of misogyny-based dehumanization of Hillary Clinton has been around longer than they have been alive.

Many observations have been made about the fact that Bernie Sanders polls significantly better than Clinton among young people. (Specifically, young white people.) And I think there are a number of reasons for that, but chief among them is that, as my friend Kate noted, “Twenty-five-year-olds have literally never lived in a time where there weren’t whispers (or nationally televised shouts) about Hillary Clinton’s evil schemes.”

Young people, and people of any age who are newer participants in the political process, are coming to politics at a time when literally decades of demonstrably unfounded smears against Hillary Clinton—or “The Clintons”—have become cemented as historical fact.

I am old enough, and have been an engaged political nerd long enough, to remember Rush Limbaugh’s 1990’s TV show, back when he was busily coining misogynist slurs like “feminazi.” And now I see left-leaning Clinton opponents using those phrases, and invoking the unsubstantiable lore about her aggressive dishonesty and villainy invented by Limbaugh and his cohorts, as though they are something other than the fever dreams of intractably misogynist dirtbags with a nefarious agenda.


It has taken me years to find the real Hillary Clinton behind a brick wall of impenetrable misogyny.

And this is the reality with which we all need to reckon: A brick wall is infinitely more difficult to shatter than a glass ceiling.

I have said this before and I daresay I will be obliged to say it again: I have not been a reflexive defender (or supporter) of Hillary Clinton the politician. I have made criticisms of her campaigning and her policy. I expect to continue to make them, because I have significant points of disagreement with some of her positions and because she makes mistakes.

I have, however, I will openly admit, become a reflexive defender (and supporter) of Hillary Clinton the person. Certainly, it is partly out of self-interest, because I am myself demeaned and caricatured by misogyny, and because I want to see more female representation in politics and don’t want enormous hurdles standing in their way.

But mostly it is because it profoundly grieves me to see the way she is treated.

It hurts my heart—and it angers me—to have uncovered a person who cares, if imperfectly, so deeply about other people and observe the many ways in which she has been turned into a monster. It is intolerable.

And I flatly refuse to abide the rank dehumanization of Hillary Clinton in silence.

This is not the first time that a candidate who would otherwise be seen as a reasonable, normal human being turned into a caricature or a demon because of some irrelevant feature; say the color of his skin, perhaps.  What’s even worse is when it happens at the hands of those who would normally be allies.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

All In The Framing

Yesterday the news was full of stories about how Hillary Clinton won the Iowa caucuses by “the narrowest of margins.”  Okay, that’s probably factually true; it was a very close finish.

But I get the feeling that if she had lost by the very same margin, it would have been characterized as a “crushing defeat” and all the Very Serious People on cable TV would have wondered how she can possibly go on.

Here’s a thought: How about taking a moment to appreciate the fact that she was the first woman to ever win the Iowa caucus and go from there?

But it also could be that we’ve gotten to the point where having a woman win an important primary event is no big deal.  So that’s saying something.

A Worthy Campaign Promise

I would not vote for John Kasich if he were the Republican nominee, but I do appreciate his sense of perspective.

The morning after Kasich placed 8th in the Iowa caucus, host Alisyn Camerota ended her interview with the former [sic] Ohio governor by asking him to recall the “best concert ever.”

“Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’,” Kasich replied. “Roger Waters is a remarkable artist. And I saw ‘The Wall’ in Pittsburgh. It was absolutely incredible. I don’t even have to think twice. It was the best.”

“And if I’m president, I’m am going to once and for all try to reunite Pink Floyd to come together and play a couple of songs,” he continued. “And since we have so much trouble in America with our finances, I’m going to start with a little song they created called ‘Money’.”

“That’s better than ‘Comfortably Numb’,” Camerota agreed.

“We may be comfortably numb when we’re done with New Hampshire,” Kasich laughed.

If he could reunite the Beatles, then he’d get my vote.

(Note: Mr. Kasich is not the “former” Ohio governor.  He still is in office.)

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Close Call

At this writing, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are too close to call in the Iowa results.  On the Republican side, Ted Cruz beat Donald Trump, Marco Rubio came in third, Jeb Bush barely showed up, and Carly Fiorina didn’t show up at her “victory” party.

So far the only formal drop-outs as a result of last night’s vote are Martin O’Malley and Mike Huckabee.

I’m surprised by Ted Cruz’s margin over Trump, but not really that he won.  I’ve always felt that Trump’s support was a mile wide and an inch thick; people showed up for the show but when it came time to vote, meh; they had better things to do.

The one person who can now capitalize on this result is Marco Rubio.  Josh Marshall thinks he presents the biggest threat to the Democrats in November.

So now it’s on to New Hampshire, and a week from now we’ll all have forgotten about Iowa, except for the schadenfreude of reminding Donald Trump that he will go down in the history books as being a Loser in Iowa.  That said, brace yourself for some really outrageous stuff from him in order to recapture his mojo.

UPDATE: At 3:41 a.m., NBC News declared Hillary Clinton to be the winner in Iowa.